Lawmakers, officials eye new counter- terrorism laws

By Don Thompson The Associated Press
Wednesday December 12, 2001

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers and state officials proposed a spate of new laws Tuesday to counter terrorism, including new wiretap rules and the death penalty for terror attacks. 

A 17-point Assembly Republican plan would stiffen sentences for terror activities, including adding terrorism to the list of special circumstances for which the death penalty could be imposed. 

It also offers more tools for investigators, such as easing wiretap laws that Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer said were written before the days when criminals could swap cell phones at a moment’s notice. 

“It’s just logistically impossible” to get a new court-approved wiretap order each time a criminal switches phones, Lockyer told a joint legislative terrorism hearing Tuesday, the same day Republican lawmakers offered their plan. 

The law should be adapted to specify the individual and whatever phones she or he uses, Lockyer said. Republicans additionally propose to expand that to include e-mail and Internet communications, and to bar Internet providers from informing customers they’re under investigation. 

The proposals mirror the federal anti-terrorism law signed by President Bush last month. 

Lockyer said the state may also need a better definition of terrorism crimes. 

“What terrorists do is break other laws, so we get them one way or another,” Lockyer said. However, a better definition could help with investigations where other laws have not yet been broken, he said. 

Though Lockyer said most terror incidents would be handled by federal investigators, Assembly Republicans proposed to beef up penalties under state law. 

Those include up to 25 years in prison for spreading biological agents, and from 10 to 25 years for harboring or concealing a terrorist; committing or inciting terrorism, or conspiring to commit terrorism; laundering money for terrorists; or soliciting money or volunteers for terrorist organizations. 

Terrorist threats or hoaxes could bring a prison sentence of up to six years, a $250,000 fine and restitution. 

The GOP proposes to also remove the time limit on prosecuting terrorism, and require convicted terrorists to give DNA samples to be matched against a state database that might link them to other major crimes. It also attempts to make it tougher for suspected terrorists to get fake drivers’ licenses or permission to transport hazardous materials. 

The Republican plan will be considered among other proposals being developed by Democratic Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg’s terrorism task force when it meets to develop recommendations Dec. 19, said Hertzberg spokesman Luke Breit. 

“We’ll be taking anything that has to do with terrorism very seriously,” Breit said. The minority GOP proposals have no chance of passing without Democratic support. 

Lockyer and Dallas Jones, who heads the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said next year’s state budget should include money to beef up local health departments’ preparedness. More money also is needed to train and equip local emergency and law enforcement departments, Jones said. 

The committee’s chair, Assemblyman Herb Wesson, D-Culver City, who is set to become Assembly speaker next year, predicted it will cost California “billions of dollars” to beef up its emergency response. He promised trying to get much of that money from the federal government “will be one of my highest priorities” as speaker. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Gray Davis’ state committee on terrorism is expected to make about 100 recommendations to the governor this week. Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio said some of the recommendations may be made public. 


On the Net: http://republican.assembly.ca.gov